Not the time to relax pandemic precautions

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Editor’s note: our local newspaper takes a positive stand on mask wearing

Charlotte Sun editorial, Nov 7,2020

Within the last couple of weeks we have:

• seen the number of COVID-19 cases set daily and weekly records nationally, and in more than half the states;

• seen the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revise its definition of “close contact” to mean a total of 15 minutes of exposure in 24 hours, rather than consecutively;

• seen the number of state and local cases rise along with the percentage of tests coming back positive; and

• seen Gov. Ron DeSantis extend Florida’s state of emergency for another 60 days.

And in that same period of time the Venice City Council has voted to let its mask mandate die and the Sarasota County School Board has been sued by a group of parents seeking to undo its mask policy.

We continue to be dumbfounded by the lack of support for the simple practice of wearing a mask to reduce the spread of the most deadly pandemic in 100 years.

Because here’s what opponents are missing: Widespread mask wearing is part of a return to normalcy. Suppressing the virus is the key.

Yes, many people are wearing masks voluntarily, even though Florida and Sarasota and Charlotte county governments never required them, and Venice’s mandate was gutted by the governor’s suspension of fines. Fortunately, many businesses still require them, and they are still mandatory in public schools.

Admittedly, a mask isn’t a guarantee against getting or transmitting the virus, but study after study supports the conclusion that wearing one significantly reduces the risk.

Most recently, for example, the COVID Tracking Project reported that eight of the 10 states that had the most new COVID-19 cases in October didn’t have a mask mandate.

And a preliminary study in Kansas shows that new cases leveled off in the 21 counties that implemented an optional mask mandate while they doubled in the counties that didn’t. A PowerPoint summary of the report is at www.IPSR.ku.edu/covid19.

Objection after objection to masks has been debunked. They don’t inhibit oxygen intake, they don’t trap CO2, they aren’t unconstitutional and they aren’t part of some vast conspiracy to … whatever.

Neither the fact that mortality rates are currently lower nor the eventual appearance of a vaccine is a reason not to wear a mask.

A vaccine, whose arrival is still a matter of conjecture, won’t be 100% effective either, and death is the worst, but far from the only consequence of getting sick.

Get infected and you may miss work; lose income; run up a big hospital bill; become a COVID-19 “long-hauler”, with effects felt for weeks or months; and even suffer some permanent damage. And that’s not to mention the risk of infecting other people.

The Punta Gorda City Council members made a wise move this week when they voted to extend the city’s mask mandate, set to expire Nov. 6 through April 30, 2021.

So with an anti-mask member leaving the Venice City Council, we hope it will reconsider its decision and reimpose a mask mandate. Maybe the North Port City Commission can bring this up, with two new members set to swear in. We also hope the Sarasota School Board will vigorously contest the lawsuit challenging its policy.

Florida’s numbers are trending up but not spiking. Let’s not get behind the curve again.

Image Credits: https://www.yoursun.com/
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